By Andreas Vou
While APOEL claimed Cyprus Cup glory over AEL in Wednesday night’s final with a convincing 4-2 win, the focus was very much on the violence which took place midway through the second half as supporters of the Limassol side threw flares and rocks onto the pitch.
AEL took a surprise early lead but Tomas De Vincenti levelled the game with a cross-come-shot from a 40-yard free-kick.
Goalkeeper Karim Fegrouch misjudged the flight of the ball which looped over the 33-year-old and into the net but De Vincenti insisted it was an intentional shot on goal. “Yes, I meant to do that. I saw the goalkeeper off his line and so I went for it,” he said.
“It’s an amazing feeling,” said an exhausted John Arne Riise who put the game beyond any reasonable doubt with a long-range thunderbolt of a free-kick to make it 4-1.
“I think we deserve the trophy. We started badly but after we were better and we managed to win the Cup.”
It was almost immediately after Riise’s strike that the violence from the AEL section erupted and the veteran full-back believes that the unsavoury scenes are a letdown.
“It’s a shame for Cyprus football what took place and all of Europe will see it. We were in danger because they (AEL fans) were throwing rocks at us. The Football Association must review it.”
The head of the Cyprus Football Association, Costakis Koutsokoumnis, was on hand to give his view on both what took place on the pitch and off it.
“Congratulations to APOEL and congratulations for AEL’s demonstration of ‘fair play’ for staying on the field. I would also like to thank the police because, without their guidance, the final would have ended in the courthouses.
“Now we will let the APOEL enjoy their victory and we will, with calmness, sit down and see what happened,” said Koutsokoumnis, before some kind words for AEL manager Christakis Christoforou.
“My congratulations to AEL, to their board and to their manager who again showed his character. He could have taken his players away and left but he stayed here to congratulate APOEL,” he concluded.
Christoforou was more concerned about the game itself and was left lamenting his side’s failure to seize their opportunities when they came their way.
“We were very good in the first half but in the second we lost our heads. Someone who did not see the game and heard of the 4-2 scoreline would say that it was a simple win, however, it was not like that.
Despite feeling his side’s efforts merited more, he was in no mood for excuses and insisted that it was vital that the core of the team remained at the club next season after a disappointing campaign.
“The Americans say that if you are first you are first and if you are second you are nothing. For AEL to be strong next year, everybody must stay at the club.”
For AEL, who sit seventh in the table, defeat in the final saw their last chance of claiming a Europa League spot go begging.
APOEL, on the other hand, need just one point from their final match of the season on Sunday away to Ermis to earn a second successive league and Cup double.